The two tickets for Student Assembly President and Vice President have highlighted issues important to the community of the College of William and Mary as a whole, and the ideals espoused by both campaigns are similar in nature. They both have their strengths and weaknesses and can learn from each other.
Both choices would serve the College’s student body well in different ways; however, with the information available to us now, we believe that the ticket of Kelsey Vita ’20 and Ellie Thomas ’20 possesses a combined experience that helps them realize what is possible to accomplish, and what should be shelved due to unrealistic expectations. Therefore, The Flat Hat chooses to endorse Vita and Thomas for SA president and vice president.
Vita, who has served the class of 2020 president for all three years, and Thomas, chair of the Senate, are both well-acquainted with SA and how to get things done. Their platform, while broad, largely contains concrete, actionable plans, and it is clearly thoughtful in design. Among Vita and Thomas’ best issues is campus safety. Having dedicated time in Senate to getting pedestrian lights installed, Vita and Thomas can be trusted to continue their work in this area. Additionally, they have a plan to get the Office of First Year Experience to start implementing mass shooter prevention education — a topic that they find crucial given the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. Included in their plan are guidelines for accessibility in older halls such as Morton Hall, along with assisting Facilities Management to make sure doors open in such a way to disadvantage a possible assailant.
Furthermore, Vita and Thomas’ focus on Title IX as a major issue in their campaign resonates strongly in an era where survivors are gaining a long overdue voice and stage in society. Their platform includes a plan to work with the Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist and the Title IX Coordinator to ensure that survivor’s needs are met in the face of Education Secretary DeVos’s proposed changes to federal sexual assault policy. It also includes a proposal to switch to Callisto, a reporting software designed by survivors for survivors. Both of these ideas show the extent to which Vita and Thomas have considered the concerns of survivors and are willing to work to support them in the face of national challenges.
It is clear that Vita and Thomas have a strong understanding of the legislative process in Senate, as well as the abilities of the executive branch. One of the ticket’s best qualities is the achievability of its proposed policies. The working knowledge that both Vita and Thomas have accrued over their years of service in SA shines through in their platform and their campaign and will color a potential administration.
Despite their positive attributes, should they win, Vita and Thomas have a lot to learn from David DeMarco and Nyla Pollard’s campaign. It was clear from the start of election season that DeMarco and Pollard had emphasized the importance of outreach and advocacy. Though Vita and Thomas have been able to accomplish much through the legislative process, DeMarco has been able to get a comparable amount of work done by working from outside the established system — most notably his work with Sodexo in improving the services provided by the company to students and his efforts to use student survey data to sway administrative opinion.
However, DeMarco and Pollard’s platform is plagued with overly optimistic impossibilities. It seems as if they proposed radical, implausible ideas with the hopes that minor subpoints of their plans will be the policies that actually get approved by administration. Going forward with this plan makes it seem that they either did not do the research to see what was possible — or that they knew their plans wouldn’t be possible but decided to publish them anyway. For example, their first policy point under parking advocacy is to make parking decals free for students, an idea that is appealing in theory but impossible due to the revenue the school gains from this practice. Realistically, their plan to revamp the appeals process is less flashy but more likely to be adopted.
A place where both tickets have failed is in the issue of free speech. Vita and Thomas include in their platform the plan to implement the Chicago Statement on Free Speech, yet they advocate for trigger warnings, which are not included in the original statement. While we believe that this is an important consideration, we also believe that the issue could have been better served by adopting a free speech proposal tailored to the specific needs and wishes of the College community. DeMarco and Pollard include in their platform the desire to bring “controversial” speakers to campus, yet when probed, they backtracked away from the word.
Additionally, while both candidate pairs addressed the issue of mental health — well-known to be of great importance to the student body at large — we feel that both pairs could also have delved deeper into specific, active ways to address the ongoing issues of stress culture, strained resources at the Wellness Center, and recently debated problems with care reports. However, of the two, Vita and Thomas’s plan was the more comprehensive.
The competition produced by this campaign has provided opportunities for both tickets to learn and improve, an important element in any election and beneficial for SA and students at large. Whoever enters the office will have an opportunity to implement what they have gained from each other, and from student feedback. We at The Flat Hat firmly believe that Kelsey Vita and Ellie Thomas, with their clarity and practicality, are the best choice for Student Assembly President and Vice President.
The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat. The editorial board consists of Gavin Aquin, Ethan Brown, Brendan Doyle, Nia Kitchin and Maggie More.
Editor’s Note: Ethan Brown and Nia Kitchin recused themselves from the editorial; Brown for personal reasons and Kitchin to maintain objectivity in her reporting.